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SERMON V.

THE TRIAL OF GIDEON'S ARMY BY THE

PROCLAMATION.

JUDGES Vii. 2.

And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands; lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now, therefore, go to; proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from Mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand, and there remained ten thousand.

WE come now to a part of Gideon's his

tory which forms a practical commentary on two portions of God's word, on which the faith and comfort of the Christian may always securely rest, viz. "Not by might, nor by power; but by my Spirit," saith the Lord God of hosts; and again, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and the base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence; that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." The circumstances in which we here find Gideon placed will enable us to illustrate and apply these passages of Scripture.

Gideon has now obtained the necessary assurance of God's favour; and he takes courage to blow the trumpet, to collect the forces of the various tribes, if, haply, after all the strength he can procure,

Israel may be able to stand before those fearful enemies, the Midianites, of whom it is said, that they "lay along the valley like grasshoppers, and whose camels were without number, as the sand

the sea side, for multitude." We may conceive Gideon, in such a season of anxiety, hoping that more hearts will be stirred up for the arduous contest, and more warriors be found to offer themselves willingly in such a cause; when, lo, the Lord says unto Gideon, "The people are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands." What a majesty there is in these words! "Too many for me;" too many for me "to give the Midianites into their hands!"

In consequence of this intimation, Gideon's faith is to be tried by the lessening of his army upon the very eve of battle and the courage of the army is to be tried, that it may be seen that "with God it is a little thing to save by many or by few." As this trial Gideon, it was no slight one.

respected

To see, on

66

the one hand, the Midianites as grasshoppers for multitude," and, on the other hand, twenty-two thousand turning their backs on their enemies at the very first sound of the trumpet, must have been a fearful sight indeed. It must have driven him for consolation to God's own promise, and have compelled him to act by faith upon that as his only stay. The proclamation was the touchstone which tried these men, of what spirit they were. All, no doubt, looked equally bold before the trial came, and when there was no line of distinction drawn; but no sooner does Gideon proclaim, "Let every one that is fearful depart," than twenty-two thousand confess that they are afraid, and turn back. Their cowardice will appear the greater,

if

you consider their previous encourage

ments, which, doubtless, Gideon had set before them. He may be supposed to have said, "Fear not, soldiers, for God is with us. He assured me of this himself, when I was threshing wheat in my father's winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.

At that time he looked on me, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.' Wherefore, soldiers, be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was said unto me. Yea, he has already confirmed his word by many gracious tokens of his favour; he has accepted my sacrifice; he touched it, and there came fire out of the rock and consumed it. And when I trembled for fear of death, because mine eyes had seen the Lord of hosts, he said, 'Peace be unto thee fear not; thou shalt not die.' In the strength of this gracious encouragement, I have already thrown down the altar of Baal, and cut down the grove that was by it; and when the idolatrous worshippers would have slain me for it, God suffered them not; and all Israel have seen that Baal cannot plead for himself. Nay, more I have asked of God yet further tokens of his favour, and he has granted them; when I asked for dew upon the fleece, he gave it; and when I

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